World 24 Hour Solo Championships Race Report (Italy)

After coming within 3.5 minutes of the World 24 HR Solo Title in New Zealand last year I went back to the drawing board to figure out a way to end Australian Jason English’s 7 year domination of the sport.  Having raced a bike for 17 years and chasing this 24 Hr World title since riding my first World champs in Canmore in 2008 it was time to get this job done.

It has been a rollercoaster ride through 10 different 24 hr Solo races with some catastrophic meltdowns.  From a dislocated shoulder, foggy vision, exploding stomachs, big crashes or just plain exhaustion there have been some trying moments. There are a plethora of x factors which play into every race as you can have the best form of your life but even not having a good sleep in the days leading up to an event can derail things pretty fast.

This year the race was a gongshow for the first 6 hours with over 350 riders on a short 9.5 km course causing some intense traffic jams.   Australian Jason English, USA champ Josh Tostado and a couple Europeans went out hard on the opening laps but I’d reel them in and was soon pushing the pace.  Gaining a small gap I was feeling strong but also going through the matchbox pretty fast.  This effort was aborted as the traffic on course was blocking any big gains and the mid day sun was starting to roast my Canadian blood. The decision was to drop back and cruise for the next 4-6 hours waiting for the air temperature to drop and the course to open up.  

It was a sweet course with a nice mixture of singletrack and fire roads with a solid 12-14 minute power section on the back side which I could really diesel through and hurt the other riders.  The Italians had organized a huge party surrounding the race, in particular on one bermed descent they had a beer gardens and loud speakers. The large crowds were blowing off horns, throwing beer around and smashing carbon bikes against the barriers to make noise.  It resembled a rowdy hockey stadium and brought back some good memories of my junior days at the rink.

 Mid afternoon some cloud cover came in, the trails were opening up a bit so I upped the tempo, slowly pulling away from the other riders, just leaving Jason and I to ride a few laps together before I dropped him on the long diesel section.  Just  8-9 hrs into the race, it was early, but I was confident I was the strongest guy in the race and decided to go for it before while the going was good.

The gap grew lap by lap and soon there was word  Jason was just 8-10 minutes from being lapped.  Starting to feel the early efforts I was a bit cautious but opted to keep the momentum and try to catch Jason as this would be an emotional lift and put him on the ropes.  Around midnight I closed in on Jason, “How’s it going buddy?”,  “Hurtin a bit mate, how are you doing?  You must be loving this!”.  “For now I am..”   Jason has probably lapped me 7 or 8 times over the years so it was nice to get one back on him.

The thing about 24 hr Solo racing is there’s no easy way.  The best thing I do is only race one of these a year so I forget how hard the last one was.  With 6 hours to go the stomach went and the feeling of being poisoned quickly sunk in.  It was alarming for a few laps as I likely overdid my home made electrolyte mix and was overdosing on something so switched over to water to flush the system. It was like trying to ride a bike with the worst hangover ever mixed in with numbness and weird body aches all over the place.

The diet was now down to 50-100 calories of Clif shot blocks an hour and maybe 50 calories of cardboard.  My pit crew made up the cardboard by combining buckwheat crisp bread and sketchy herb goat cheese and then putting it in my back pocket to marinate in all the dirt, sweat and sogginess before I’d try to stuff it down my throat.  It was shocking how little went into the body the last 6 hours but it kept ticking over as there was no way I was letting this one slip away. There was a certain level of suffering going on the last few laps but I kept thinking of my Uncle Dale who passed away this spring after years of going through cancer treatments.  This suffering I was dealing with was nothing compared to what I saw him fight through, always with his head held high, as he kept on living his life to the fullest.  

Having a 40-50 minute lead on Jason was solid but that can dissolve away pretty quickly in 24 racing as the meltdowns can be game ending. Eventually the hours ticked down and I was on the homestretch.  Normally I’m  stoked when I’m in the lead and can see the finish line in sight but this seemed surreal to finally be closing in on a goal I set so many years back. The Italian race organizers (24hfinale) had spent most of the weekend organizing the party around the race and it made for a hell of a celebration coming across the finish line to claim my first World Title!   The journey I took to get here, over nearly a decade, is one I will never forget and possibly the best part of the whole thing.

After a solid 2 month altitude training camp in Guatemala this spring and a restful month at home in Victoria BC dialing in the fitness, the mind and body were better then ever this year.  The pit crew was A+ with my buddy and 24hr veteran Leighton Poidevon and Hiran from Radical Lights manning the pits.  I can’t thank these two enough for volunteering themselves and coming over to Italy to build our dream team.   Running Radical Lights during the night kept my eyes fresh as these lights are untouchable. Also having two nearly identical Kona Hei Hei full suspensions in the pits made a huge difference as we’d swap bikes 6-7 times throughout the race with both bikes running great.

Some interesting notes on the race:

In total Jason and I stopped for around 5-6 minutes total over the 24 hours.  Most laps we rolled through just grabbing bottles. There were two stops of about 1 minute each to put on and take off our lighting systems.

The body went through 42 water bottles, and around 8000-9000 calories.

I had lazer eye surgery 2 years ago but it left me with blurry vision so I wore one contact lense to see clearly in one eye, and kept the other eye free to decrease the risk of having both eyes cloud over.   12 vials of eye drops were used to keep the eyes moist and functioning as this has derailed a few races.  

Total kilometres were approximately 380 km, about 40-50 km below normal which I would contribute to all the traffic on course.

The total vertical meters climbed were around the height of Mount Everest at 8500- 9000 M. 

Huge thanks to all my family, friends, sponsors and supporters who have stood behind me over the course of all these years to pull this dream in as it takes a full team effort to pull something like this off.

Photo credits: @24hfinale

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